Magazine article Behavioral Healthcare Executive

Benchmarking Blossoms in the Garden State

Magazine article Behavioral Healthcare Executive

Benchmarking Blossoms in the Garden State

Article excerpt

Benchmarking is a key way tor healthcare providers to continually improve the quality of care. While medical care providers have had a wealth of benchmarking data to guide their efforts for many years, this has not been the case for behavioral healthcare providers.

Realizing this need, Behavioral Pathway Systems (BPS), a behavioral healthcare benchmarking services vendor, partnered with the New Jersey Association of Mental Health Agencies, Inc. (NJAMHA). In July 2005 we launched the Benchmarking for Best Practices Initiative, which we believe is the first statewide program of its kind.

One-third of NJAMHA's 125 provider organizations are participating in the Benchmarking Initiative. By gathering data about their performance levels, comparing this information with their peers' data, and adopting best practices, participants continually are enhancing their effectiveness.

Within minutes of data submission, providers receive individualized reports containing comparative data based on benchmarks grouped into three categories:

* Clinical benchmarks include rates of noshows, hospitalizations, re-ad missions within 30 days, homelessness, incarceration, medication errors, and outcomes (e.g., suicide).

* Financial benchmarks include current ratio, net days in accounts receivable, bad debt, and operating revenue and cost per client and per unit of service for various levels of care.

* Operational benchmarks include rates of staff retention, access to services, client-to-staff ratio, service utilization rates, and productivity levels.

We used feedback from our Benchmarking Steering Committee as well as statewide concerns, priorities, and emerging issues to select the benchmarks.

Trina Parks, senior director of adult intensive programs at the Mental Health Association of Essex County in Montclair, notes that the Benchmarking Initiative provides a larger audience and expanded sense of improvements that her organization can make. "With our performance improvement committee, we only had an in-house perspective. Now, through NJAMHA's initiative, we can compare our performance with other organizations with similar departments and programs. It broadens our horizons," she says. In fact, the Mental Health Association of Essex County has been identified through the Benchmarking Initiative as a "Top Performer" in access to routine appointments for adults.

We reinforce benchmarking through workshops and audio conferences. Participants prepare data for specified bench marks and engage in a structured, interactive process to identify techniques that contribute to high levels of performance. They also receive a quantified, rank-ordered listing of potential best practices to apply in their agencies.

Like the Mental Health Association of Essex, CPC Behavioral Healthcare, Inc., in Eatontown uses the Benchmarking Initiative to augment what it has been doing for years. For example, CPC has been collecting data using the Mental Health Corporations of America's (MHCA) client satisfaction survey, and now uses that information in the Benchmarking Initiative.

"We enter our MHCA survey data in addition to information we collect internally for the NJAMHA Benchmarking Initiative, which provides many indicators forevaluation and comparison," says Maria Marinaccio, director of quality management and corporate compliance.

Both CPC and Ocean Mental Health Services in Bayville have achieved Top Performer status for client satisfaction. "We already knew that our client satisfaction numbers were high, but until we had the opportunity to benchmark, we didn't know where we stood in relation to others," says Jarrett Lynn, director of operations at Ocean Mental Health Services. …

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